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SportsShooter.com: Member Message Board

Carbon Fiber vs. Aluminum Monopods
Kyle Coburn, Student/Intern, Photographer
Columbia | MO | USA | Posted: 11:56 PM on 09.23.03
->> Other than the fact that Carbon fiber monopods are more expensive, look neat, and the honeycomb texture is hallucinatingly awesome, what are the practical differences between the two?

Which do you use?
Is there a reason to buy one or the other?

I am looking for something to support anywhere from a 300mm to 600mm lens.

The second part of this question is which monopod should I get. I have been looking at Gitzo and Bogen. Model #'s would help.

Thanks for your help.
Kyle Coburn
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Dan Powers, Photographer
Appleton | WI | USA | Posted: 12:01 AM on 09.24.03
->> I use the Gitzo carbon fiber monopod on a Nikkor 400mm f/2.8 AFS II with a 1.4x It's great...light, stable...and I am not a fan of Bogen. Those levers always seem to need tightening. I'm not sure if the Gitzo is good with a 600. I'm sure one of the SI guys have an opinion on it. Cheers...Dan.
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Kyle Coburn, Student/Intern, Photographer
Columbia | MO | USA | Posted: 12:10 AM on 09.24.03
->> Thanks Dan, the 600mm is wishful thinking, its not like i would be using it everyday. What model Gitzo do you have?

-Kyle
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Michael McNamara, Photographer
Columbia | MO | USA | Posted: 12:12 AM on 09.24.03
->> Even though it’s cool to say “my monopod is made from the same stuff as Indy Cars,” it’s a very good choice for the longer telephotos. I have a Gitzo 1588 (carbon fiber) which I bought after I got a 400 2.8. I used to have an aluminum one. I don't remember what my old model was, but it was very shaky with a 400 on it. You could tap it and it would vibrate like a guitar string. The 1588 is rated to hold up to about 26 pounds, and is their strongest model (you could probably put a 1200 on it in a pinch).

I prefer Gitzo to Bogen because of the locking mechanism and air cushioning. It's easier to fine-tune the height. And the clank the Bogen makes when you extend the sections sounds synonymous with weak. If it comes with a plastic wrench to tighten the locking system, it probably isn’t something that you want to be running up and down Faurot Field with a 400 attached.
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Alex Jones, Photographer, Student/Intern
Austin | TX | USA | Posted: 12:12 AM on 09.24.03
->> My Bogen 3218 aluminum monopod will hold a Canon 400 2.8 Rev. 1 (heavy!) easily... in fact I selected it by leaning on all the monopods at Precision Camera here in Austin. The 3218 was the only one that didn't sink.

Plus, aluminum monopods are much better for the occasional rolling chair monopod jousting late at night in the photo office...
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Dan Powers, Photographer
Appleton | WI | USA | Posted: 12:15 AM on 09.24.03
->> I'm not sure what model, but it's pretty compact.
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Ron Scheffler, Photographer
Hamilton (Toronto area) | Ontario | Canada | Posted: 12:54 AM on 09.24.03
->> I have the Gitzo carbon fibre as well. In fact, I got it when it was originally released way back around 1995. If I remember the specs correctly, it wasn't rated to hold a 400 2.8, but it's never been a problem, nor with the 600 (I think it's the equivalent to the G1568). Over those years, I've had the rubber spike/foot at the bottom replaced, as well as all the internal bushings. It's only been a couple years since that overhaul and the rubber foot is already almost flat again. What bothers me the most with that monopod is that the tightening rings become difficult to operate when it is wet (raining) or very humid. They seem to bind in a way that makes it difficult to lock the rings and slide the tubes in and out. If the monopod gets wet, it's a good idea to leave it extended overnight or even disassembled in order to dry out.
I also have a Gitzo aluminum pod, but an inattentive sideline VIP stepped on it during a football game and managed to warp one of the tubes. I was too cheap to replace/fix it, so I opted for a Manfrotto (Bogen) monopod instead. I'm not dissatisfied with the Manfrotto.. though it's definitely not made as nicely as the Gitzo. I agree, the locking tabs on the Manfrottos are a pain when they loosen, usually right when it's a bad time (and you don't have the tightening tool with you - which now, by the way, is metal).

Here's a story for you: One day at an NFL game, I was walking along the end zone to go to the other sideline... just as I was walking behind the net (behind the goal posts) with my 600 & Manfrotto pod in one hand, and the 400 & Gitzo in the other, the net crew started to raise the net. Well, all of a sudden my 600 felt a lot lighter, and to my surprise was suspended from the net about a foot or so from my head. One of the locking tabs on the monopod got caught in the net as it was being raised.... luckily I managed to get the crew's attention before they could hoist it all the way up. So - there is one good reason to go for the Gitzo design. Ironically, a couple weeks ago, at the same stadium (KC) someone else got gear caught in the net, though it wasn't a monopod this time.

BTW: Gitzo and Manfrotto are owned by the same company... though they are run as separate entities and don't share production or design...
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Carl Schnepple, Photographer
Baltimore | MD | USA | Posted: 8:40 AM on 09.24.03
->> I moved over to a Gitzo 1588 carbon pod because my aluminum Gitzo pod just felt wobbly with my 600. Carbon doesn't seem to feel as cold as aluminum in cold weather for some reason too. Plus the 1588 has great pop as a softball bat, although I haven't figured out how to get an ASA stamp on one of the tubes and get it into our leagure yet....
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Ed Wolfstein, Photographer, Assistant
Burlington | VT | USA | Posted: 9:10 AM on 09.24.03
->> The Gitzo 1588 is rock solid. I use it with a quick release clamp (Really Right Stuff) so that I can change lenses quickly, as an event may so require. Once I decided that rather than change periodically, I'd just use my older Bogen (Manfrotto) aluminum monopod - boy, when going back, I could feel the difference, and even see more movement in the viewfinder (with a 400mm) - I'm sticking with the Gitzo, and will probably get a couple more.

BTW, Ron: Gitzo is a French company, Manfrotto is an Italian company. They are both distributed in the US by Bogen. I'm not too sure about the ownership being one in the same...
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Ian Elliott, Photographer
Junction City | OR | USA | Posted: 9:39 AM on 09.24.03
->> I use the #3449 Carbon One monopod from Bogen for my 400. I also have a RRS Arca Swiss clamp on top for quick change over. The pod is rated at 11.1 lbs, so the 400 is pushing it, but it performs very well. I would not try it with a 6. The bottom leg (4 section)is a little skinny, but I find that I don't need to extend that last section much.
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Robert G. Stevens, Photographer
Halifax | NS | Canada | Posted: 9:55 AM on 09.24.03
->> Kyle:

Velbon makes a Carbon monopod that is pretty decent and a bit cheaper than the Gitzo. I think I paid about $125 USD for it and the model is CUP-40. I use it with a 400mm f2.8. It is a bit on the short side though. I am 6 feet tall and I have to use it at full extension.

The big manfrotto monopods are probably still the best buy. I have had one for years and it still works great.
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Carl Schnepple, Photographer
Baltimore | MD | USA | Posted: 10:07 AM on 09.24.03
->> Ed,

Good point about the RRS ARCA clamp. I use the long version on my 1588 as well, really nice when switching out and the longer clamp adds more clamping surface on the long foot of the 600 (which has the Wimberley low profile foot/ARCA plate on it). Very cool combo. Here is a link:

http://www.reallyrightstuff.com/clamps_and_knobs/index.html

The LOC knob is nice too, adding the extra length makes it easier to grab and operate.
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Darren Carroll, Photographer
Cedar Creek (Austin) | TX | USA | Posted: 10:09 AM on 09.24.03
->> I also use the Carbon One. Works fine with the Canon 400 and 600 (the older, heavy ones).

Best thing about it is that Bogen has redesigned the locking mechanism so that it can be tightened down with a simple Philips-head screwdriver..
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Ron Scheffler, Photographer
Hamilton (Toronto area) | Ontario | Canada | Posted: 11:46 AM on 09.24.03
->> Ed: not that it's very important, but here is the tidbit of info I'm referring to regarding the ownership of Gitzo and Manfrotto, taken from the Gitzo website:

Gitzo remained a family business run by Mrs Yvonne Pflieger, the daughter of the founder up until 1992 when the company was purchased by the Vitec Group PLC in the UK who also own Manfrotto, the other leading manufacturer of camera and lighting support systems. The declared policy of the Group is to maintain the two brands separate, from design solutions to production methods and facilities.

Carl: I agree that the CF pods don't feel as cold as the aluminum ones. I imagine the reason is that aluminum is a much better conductor of heat and draws it more quickly out of your hands.

My biggest beef with the Manfrotto isn't the tightening clamp system, rather the rubber foot. It wore through much too quickly when used with the big lenses. Now I just replace the foot with one made for chairs, but those wear out even faster (but are inexpensive).
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Tommy Metthe, Photographer
Abilene | TX | | Posted: 1:02 PM on 09.24.03
->> Hey Ron, try putting a penny or nickel (I'm not sure what that would be in Canadian $, sorry couldn't resist) I used to go through 2-3 of those rubber pieces a year. But I think the penny/nickel has made the rubber piece last over a year and counting (it depends on the size of the foot you're using, depending on the coin, I use a penny in mine, but have friends that have bigger rubber pieces and use a nickel).
I actually prefer the Bogen (guess I'm in the minority). The only times I've used a Gitzo I had a hard time getting the tubes to stop turning together and unlock, I was young and I know I probably looked pretty stupid trying to extend the legs etc. Anyway, I've been stuck on the Bogen since, I usually keep a nutdriver (looks like a screwdriver) in my bag to tighten it, when it gets loose. Those plastic things do nothing but break the first time you use them.
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Michael J. Treola, Photographer
Neptune | NJ | USA | Posted: 1:46 PM on 09.24.03
->> Darren's right about the new locking mechanism of the Carbon One, which I would recommend first. If a section slips simply open the lock and take a turn on the screws and your back to business. Gitzo's are just too much money and I like Tommy have had problems with the Gitzo section sticking, turning and locking mechanism fail especially when you get a little dirt or sand in the sections. Beach sand has done in every Gitzo I've had now I use only Bogen.

Simply the Bogen Carbon One one is light, extends high for tall people like me, supports long glass with ease, is light, sturdy, is light, lock is self adjustable, is light, is light, is light and is light.
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Larry Clark, Photographer, Photo Editor
Falls Church | VA | USA | Posted: 8:26 AM on 09.25.03
->> I use the Manfrotto carbon with a Nikon D1 and 300 f/2.8. When I switch to the hand-held camera I usually drop the "podded" camera to my left knee (sitting on a stool). Cutting a little wight off this assembly just makes the day go easier.

I could buy the Gitzo if I wanted it, but I just don't like collar locks. Period.
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Walter Calahan, Photographer
Silver Spring | MD | USA | Posted: 9:50 AM on 09.25.03
->> In cold weather, carbon works better - your tongue won't stick to it.
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Nathan Pier, Student/Intern, Photographer
Madison | WI | USA | Posted: 10:16 AM on 09.25.03
->> Tommy, my bogen came with a little metal nutdriver that sticks into the dumb plastic thing that always breaks. I am fairly certain that bogen ships all their camera supports with the plastc and metal wrenches now. If not, you can buy the combo from any dealer.

I am still using the bogen 3249... I think the model is. The only beefs I have with it is that it is too short for me when fully extended and the sections come loose every now and again. To combat this problem I usually just check each section before an event and am good to go.

-N
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Thread Title: Carbon Fiber vs. Aluminum Monopods
Thread Started By: Kyle Coburn
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